Saturday, September 8, 2007

Taking a Step Back

At times we pass through life with a skewed perspective. The other day, I was in a shoppe and the calendar on the wall displayed a photograph of a man scaling a cliff, a photograph I took little notice of. What caught my eye was the caption: Pestilence.

"How true," I thought to myself. Then blinking I considered that it was an odd caption for a calendar.

I blinked, and looked again. In fact it said "Persistence." I had walked into the shoppe in a foul mood that had been pervasive for several days. My mood had coloured my ability to read. I saw the P and the "ence" on the end. My mind on autopilot filled in the rest.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

On Empowerment

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I've been watching America's Got Talent against my better judgement. I should have signed off when Boy-Shakira made the cut to the top 20, and the Redneck Tenors who were actually decently talented were cut. The judges are apparently more interested in having an entertaining show than they are showcasing the most talented acts.

One such case is The Glamazons a group of overweight women who sing (off-key) while dancing around the stage in lingerie. When interviewed, the women talk about how empowering it is to allow themselves to be sexy in public. I have the impression the judges are thinking "good for you for making a statement to society that you are OK," and vote them through despite grating vocals and mediocre dancing.

I have no problem with overweight women feeling sexy, dancing, or singing. However, I think that to choose this venue to publicly insist you are sexy is degrading to all women, not empowering. People who truly feel sexy don't need to prove it, and these women claim empowerment by demanding approval & recognition from others. Needing others to remind you how great you are is not empowerment, its enslavement and social prostitution.

The other night, The Colbert Report parodied the trend toward women taking pole-dancing classes and defining it as feminism because "its empowering." While Colbert made the point that these women are subscribing to cultural misogyny in a hilarious fashion, the program was interviewing real women straight-facedly claiming that by catering to male sexual fantasies for approval they were being empowered.

Sorry ladies, taking classes so you can compete with strippers in order to prove to society that you can be as sexy as a college student who works nights at the Gentlemen's Club is begging for outside approval. It's degrading, and it hurts the efforts of those of us who want to be taken seriously as human beings instead of as sex objects. Empowerment comes from within, not from the consensus, and while feminism has fought for public acceptance of what is female, public acceptance in & of itself is not the same thing as feminism, especially when public acceptance is bought by sexualizing yourself.

This is certainly not to say that if you want to install a pole in your bedroom that you are degrading women, because it isn't as long as your behavior is safe & mutally satisfying for both you & your partner. What is degrading is the women who take their pole dancing public to insist on being seen & heard as a "feminist" as defined by crossing the line between normal person & sex-kitten. In the case of the Glamazons, why the lingerie? You can sing or you can't. You can dance, or you can't. The world renowned dance teams I've seen have yet to perform in lingerie, even on the sexy songs, because its in poor taste. If you are trying to overcome fears about your own personal sexuality, dance in lingerie in group therapy, but on a talent show please have your costume be relevant to your talent or get off the stage because you are taking the rest of womankind with you on your stupidity ride.

Actual feminists say "I can do anything & be great" and aspire to benefit society by being free to cure cancer. We are women who want to make the same amount of money as males in our professions. Then Miss-The-Boat shows up in her skanky lingerie claiming "I can do anything & be great" and aspires to dance around naked for men to notice and say "Damn, she's hot!" Since when have women ever been oppressed from dancing naked in a male dominated society? They've been encouraging that all along, its certainly not empowering to be allowed to do what the guys have been begging you to do since pre-pubescence and "I'll show you mine if you show me yours."

The feminist movement has been earmarked by chauvanistic men telling women to get back in the bedroom & the kitchen--and now we are aspiring to pole dance & wear lingerie on stage? Men certainly aren't going to compete with us there! In my health class my freshman year in college, the guys refused to even do pelvic tilts in the ab routine because they saw it as too sexual & publically degrading. Picture Donald Trump, the worldwide symbol of male empowerment as one of the "Honey Bees" dancers on the new game show, The Singing Bee. Not gonna happen, because its not empowering, its degrading. But now, its what women aspire to, and define as feminism. What next, women begging to give blow jobs, followed up by serving a homemade hero sandwich while saying, "yeah, I'm a feminist, I can do whatever I set out to do!" Guys raised on a misogynistic media-diet of MTV and the Man Show are going to loooove that version of feminism.

MommyK blogged about Carmen Electra's recently published a book on how to be sexy, purporting that confidence and personality are rooted in a sexy figure, great hair, & makeup. Certainly we may feel better about ourselves when we put our best foot forward, but seeking attention by basing your personality on sexual impressions does not feed self-confidence. Rather, it places control of how we feel in the hands of people who would judge us based on how we look. You want people to take you seriously, take some responsibility for yourself and stop putting your control in the hands of others with questionable motives! Empowerment is giving birth, creativing art for its own sake, and believing there is more to us than our appearance & the sexual favors we can do for people. So why are we clamoring to pass out sexual favors for attention? Ladies, please!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Hit Me

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Getting your hair cut, specifically getting your hair cut short, is like doing crack. The first time is magical, seeing your long, split ends fall to the ground and an elegant cut that highlights your bone structure takes shape before you. You are addicted after one hit. You go back, again and again, but never quite experience the same nirvana--now its too short on top, too flippy at the sideburns and a bit longer on the left than the right. Maybe if you go back again, they can fix it? But now it's too short all over. You resign yourself to quit, missing your life before short hair, and start to regrow your tresses. There is nothing worse than the growing-out look, particularly growing out a bad cut, so the craving starts. You argue trying to persuade yourself to stay on the wagon:

You: I want to get my hair cut.

You: Hang in there, its only been 7 weeks, you can do this.

You: I really want to get my hair cut.

You: Remember how bad the last cut was? Don't do this to yourself. It will never be like the first time.

You: I need to get my hair cut.

You: No! You'll never get your hair back to long if you cave...

You: Hi, Shari? Can I get in today? I've got to get a haircut today or I may die...

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Going Green-The Smart Way

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The other day while watching a HGTV special about how to "Go Green" with home decor I was struck again with feelings bordering on disgust. What appears on the surface to be a plea to save the environment by making wise choices is in fact, nothing more than a sales pitch to buy earth friendly, but expensive and often unecessary "green" accessories for your home.

Before I am tarred and feathered for speaking out against ecologically friendly choices, consider--since granite is a nonrenewable resource is it better for the earth to rip out your granite countertops to install new ones made of renewable hemp as the programme suggests? Your existing granite countertops will last into the next eon, to be excavated by archeaologists of the future. Or, you could chuck them in the landfill and get some "green" ones made of hemp. Don't sweat the money you will spend (or the money you wasted on granite), after all hemp ones are renewable and manufactured with clean energy.

Tell me I am not the only person seeing the irony here? If you are building a new home, or refurbishing one that is beyond repair, making earth-friendly choices is smart and conservative. If you are simply remixing your home for the fun of redecorating, replacing useful and timeless accessories and fixtures is wasteful and pollutes the environment; even if you replace them with something ecologically friendly.

The woman whose home was featured on the programme was thrilled to demonstrate the chairs that were "leftover" from her previous home's design, and how they were "recycled" by replacing their covers that were manufactured detrimentally to the earth, to ones with fabrics created with little environmental impact. The chairs were clearly relatively new, sturdy pieces. It's hardly recycling to recover a chair that was built within ten years for the sake of good "green" taste.

At the end of the show, was the prompt, "For more ways to make your home green, go to..." with the implication that the responsible thing to do is to convert our homes to "green" ones. This is something advertisers can truly value, consumers being pushed to revamp their entire homes for no reason other than to make them Earth conscious. They see the money rolling in with entire homes being converted from long-wearing plastic, metal, stone and vinyl to expensive and less durable seagrasses and Brazilian drift wood. I see the landfills piling up with still useful things, replaced to jump on the trend bandwagon.

Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without. Unless of course you can immediately replace it with the more environmentally sound counterpart. Then you are doing your duty to make the world a greener place.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Witch Hunts

We have found a witch...may we burn her?
(burn her burn her burn her)

How do you know she is a witch?

She looks like one
(yeah, yeah, yeah)

bring her forward

i'm not a witch, im NOT a witch

but you are dressed as one

THEY dressed me up like this
(bah, no we didnt, no we didnt)

this isnt my nose, its a false one


well, we did do the nose

the nose?

and the hat...but SHE'S A WITCH
(yeah, burn her, burn her)

did you dress her up like this?

NO, NO, No, yes, yes, a bit...she has got a wart

what makes you think she is a witch

whuh, she turned me into a newt

a newt?

(pause) i got better

quiet, quiet, QUIET...there are ways of telling if she is a witch...

are there? what are they? tell us, tell us

tell me, what do you do with witches?


and what do you burn apart from witches?


Wood. so, why do witches burn?

(long, lengthy pause) uh...because they're made of wood how do we tell if she is made of wood?

build a bridge out of her!!

ahhh...but can you not also make bridges out of stone?

oh yeah, yeah sure

does wood sink in water?

no, no, no, it floats, it floats!! throw her into the pond!!

what also floats in water?

bread. apples. very small rocks. cider. great gravy. cherries. mud. churches. lead...




if she...weighs the a duck...she's made of wood.

and therefore?

(pause..) A WITCH!!!!

-Monty Python & the Holy Grail

The other day as I was visiting with a friend and she mentioned to me that she'd made a tincture of juniper from her yard combined with vodka for the purpose of banishing mold from her home, it struck me: a few hundred years ago most of my friends and I would very well be considered witches. Except of course, that none of us weighs the same as a duck.

The word witch has the same linguistic roots as the words "wisdom" "wit" "wise" etc. Originally, a witch was a wise woman. This was considered a threat to the security of the Vatican and male dominated offshoot religions that had subjugated women as seductresses & sinners who inherited their evil nature from Mother Eve. (As opposed to primitive Christianity which revered Mother Eve and her choice to embrace mortality as a purposeful and wise choice.) So, along with slavery and various other movements to oppress that have enforced their control by enforced ignorance, women were strongly encouraged (under penalty of death) to be submissive, silent, and less-than intelligent.

As a disclaimer this is not intended to be inflammatory toward the Catholic or Protestant sects, certainly no one would argue that the Vatican has not always been under the control of righteous men and there were mistakes and misconceptions made throughout the history of churches in the middle ages-this being one of them; without doubt hundreds of innocent women were slaughtered in the name of religion.

Fast forward to today. I am surrounded by animals as my familiars. My home smells of "potions" or as I call them essential oils diffused into the air for their healing properties. I practice kinesiology to diagnose and treat my family's ailments. I'm starting to consider my houseplants as beings with personality and as part of my devout faith in God, I sense a deep spiritual and physical connection to the earth, the moon and its cycles, and I can sometimes sense when things are going to happen. I don't consider myself psychic. I certainly don't practice Wicca or define myself as a witch. Most certainly though 300-600 years ago I would have been considered one.

With all my peculiarities and my beliefs in Karma (which I define as something controlled by God with traditional scriptural references to back up my belief), I can walk down the street or even talk about these things without the bat of a passerby's eye. Nearly everyone has experimented with alternative medicines, accupuncture, homeopathy, midwifery to some degree, its not unusual. I have friends who have studied under Reiki masters to learn energy healing. They talk about it openly and its not shocking or shunned as Eastern ideas about energy and health become more widespread.

I see this as an indicator that we as women are on the right track. Yes things often seem far-gone, with the American Psychological Association issuing a severe warning about the over-sexualization of girls in our culture and the harmful effects, we certainly still have work to do. But, that feminine concepts such as intangible energies are being widely accepted is a sign that things are getting better. So, while I continue to explore the power of God, (or nature, or energy--whatever you choose to call it) I hope my explorations will lead to more empowerment and greater freedom to birth our ideas from within rather than from the framework of a male-oriented power model. After all, our true power is the power we hold within ourselves: an inheritance if you will.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Body I Earned

Mom-O-Matic blogged a month or so ago about shame & blame and how she knows she will not drop the extra pounds until she comes to term with being shamed publicly.

Then last night I found myself scrutinizing pictures of "Plastic Surgery Gone Wrong" on the covers of various tabloids. I watched a piece on Discovery channel about airbrushing, photography, and how none of the celebs and models look like that in person.

We have a cultural dichotomy between what is real and what is not in terms of bodies. Thousands of men and women nationwide are fighting the shame and blame games from both embarrassing past experiences and just the flat fact that they are fat in a society that worships thinness.

Having grown up in close promixity to professional dancers, and spending the better part of my teenage years watching them rehearse in studio (and wishing I had a body like that) I learned young that 500 situps a day does not give an already uuber-fit person the tummy texture we call six-pack abs--surgery does. A close friend growing up ditched a career as a professional gymnast because she refused to eat the required maximum lunch of half an apple, and the required maximum breakfast of a piece of toast and a tsp of jelly. I've seen dancers lose jobs over 8 ounces of extra weight, and not get auditions because of their weight on their printed resume be listed as 2 lbs above the cut-regardless of bone structure, or talent. They are told to skip more meals and come back when they aren't so fat. Jobs in chorus lines are given to girls who match down to height, weight, bone structure, and lipstick color. Once they match your physique, only then do they consider your talent.

I am not fat by any means. I weigh 2 pounds more than I did when my oldest child was conceived and 10 lbs more than my all-time-low adult weight. I eat whatever I want and as much as I want. I've retired from feeling that my goodness and wholeness as a person is contingent on being a size 2. I can tell you truthfully that in the dance world I would be considered a good 30 lbs overweight and my arms are too short, my torso too long, and my shapely legs are way too white to parade on stage.

Yesterday I saw a woman that in earlier months I would have compared myself to and felt the burn of shame at my body. I would have envied her long, tanned legs, tiny waist, large breasts and small circumference of her rib cage. But I don't envy her at all. From spending time around extremely thin and fit people as a teenager who worship their bodies and what they can do, I know she isn't real. She bought her body-her breasts, her rippled abs, hair extensions, and even her suntan.

I earned my shapely breasts that remained buxom after pregnancy and breastfeeding. Sure they aren't as perky as they could be with a little silicone, but they are beautiful and a hospital nurse deemed them "perfectly shaped" for latching on a hungry infant. My torso is textured, not with liposuction induced ripples with but zebra like stretch marks where my daughter liked to poke out her bottom, and the place where my son's feet liked to press-my stomach markings are badges of honor. Her arms are long and very thin, my biceps are large and strong from hoisting toddlers and grocery bags. I doubt she could drag a 400 lb dresser to the other side of the room without assistance like I did yesterday. I can't wear high heels, and this woman wears nothing but; however, I have a college degree and a promising career track-one that regards my looks with a grain of salt but considers the aptitude of my mind and abilities foremost.

She probably turns heads with her shape and heavy eyeliner. I'm sure she has a lot of sexual attention from men. I know her well enough to know that that is what she's all about. With or without a man in my life I know I would be OK, I'm not so sure she would. So no, I'm not ashamed of the body I earned, I'm proud of it.

Monday, April 23, 2007


Woman To Woman

If you have never stood, holding a razor blade to your wrist begging yourself to slice, if you have never considered pulling the wheel too hard around the bend in the hopes your car would slide, if you have never honestly wondered if your children would be better off without you in their lives--then you have never felt the incredible absence of feeling that is Depression.

If you have never been so empty that tears will no longer come, if you have never been so alone that it doesn't matter if you rise from your bed, if you have never known you are even below the very rock at the bottom--then you have never entered the abyss that is Depression.

If you have never awoken more exhausted than when you lay down, if your bones have never have hurt without your being injured, if your very skin has never writhed away in pain from loving human touch--then you have never endured the tearing sensitivity that is Depression.

If you have never turned from the ant-like, superficial lives of those around you with cynicism, if you have never known the gnawing circle of disgust in your center, if you have never endured apprehension of impending doom...and pained more that it doesn't come--then you have never seen through the twisted eyes that are Depression.

If you have never looked into another person's eyes and started at the recognition of seeing their grief, if you have never held another body wracked with sobs and known no comments are adequate, if you have never wept for her tears that would not flow--then you have never been humbled to know you have survived Depression.

Depression Facts and Stats

Depressive disorders affect approximately 18.8 million American adults or about 9.5% of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year.

Everyone, will at some time in their life be affected by depression -- their own or someone else's.

Pre-schoolers are the fastest-growing market for antidepressants. At least four percent of preschoolers -- over a million -- are clinically depressed.

The rate of increase of depression among children is an astounding 23% p.a.

54% of people believe depression is a personal weakness.

41% of depressed women are too embarrassed to seek help.

80% of depressed people are not currently having any treatment.

15% of depressed people will commit suicide.

Depression will be the second largest killer after heart disease by 2020 -- and studies show depression is a contributory factor to fatal coronary disease.

Get Help

Thursday, April 19, 2007

How Many Roads?

For journalists it has long been considered a professional taboo to report suicides on the front page out of courtesy to the families. Additionally, heavily reported suicides lead to attention-based copycat events. Journalists who report on suicides and publications that print the stories are viewed as transparent and unprofessional and their circulation and readership numbers can drop severely when they report detailed stories and blurbs that are not buried effectively in the meat of the paper.

For those who desire to go out with a bang, turning to police assisted suicide has become normal. Do something so heinous and immediate that the only response is to require someone to kill you before you kill more. That way, you will get the front page for sure.

Others are opting to commit themselves, but in such a way that there is no chance it will go unreported. Set a record in number of people killed. Send tapes of your litanous tirade to the media blaming those who you feel led you to your insanity. What is unfortunate, is that while these events are reported and heavily so, the result is that just like a traditional suicide on the forefront of the paper, other attention seeking, depressed, and angry people follow suit, trying to one-up each other in death with the worst possible crimes against humanity as a vehicle to end their own lives.

Worse still, the politically correct media attemps to shift the blame from the criminal act to the society. They purport that we somehow failed because he was signed out of a mental hospital while still certifiably dangerous. Teachers and roomates who suspected something was wrong should have said something, done something. We don't have good enough alert systems, and the doors to our colleges and schools even open the wrong direction so we can't barricade ourselves safely inside. It is all our fault. The perpetrator is simply another victim in this-let's light a candle for him, and hold a vigil for his soul. We justify his heady, self-righteous belief that society is to blame for his actions, that the blood is on our hands. We are told it could be anyone, anywhere. The truth is yes, the next one could be that stranger standing next to you, but he's not just anyone. Changing the orientation of the doors and assumming its not an if but a when the next event will happen does not really prevent it, and this guy is certainly not the average joe who suddenly snapped. Our excusing and martyring the victims memory is absolutely not healing the next guy, rather its fueling him on and inspiring those who idealize his radical actions.

As it stands, there have been 7 school and college shootings in the last 6 months, all of which the perpetrator was killed by himself, the police, or a bystander. All have been heavily reported in the media. At least three other public shootings have occured since the commencement of 2007 not including school related events. Public shootings and violence have become significantly more prevalent each year and I can't help but suspect the media's handling of the news has been partially to blame. For example, all five deadly school shootings in 1998 happened within a 3 month time frame. These are not isolated events, these people are being inspired and feeding off the work of one another via heavy media reporting and speculation.

Maybe we are at fault, just not in the way we thought. For those who feel perpetually misunderstood, it must be glorious to imagine themselves the subject of Nancy Grace ad nauseum. The fact remains, we must find a different way of disseminating information to the public without glorifying violent suicides, and in so doing, encouraging them. Meanwhile, little to nothing is said about the real victims, and the devastated lives of their families left in the wake.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Painting the Roses Red

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Yet I continue to return to Walmart, day after day, supposing that at some point it will get better. It never will, and I'm certifiably insane.

Our Walmart is being converted from a regular Walmart to a "Super" Walmart. This has been an ongoing project for more than a year. It's gone from being a tiny store where they carry Walmart brand everything and nothing else, to a gargantuan store that carries multiple choices in varying Walmart brands. You can choose between the Mainstays product or the Home Trends version but either way its generic cheap crap in a shrink wrapped package; a box would cut into their profit margin. The only thing I can think of to say in their defense is that returns are relatively pain free there, if you can live through several days in line to get to the return counter.

During the remodel, the entire store shuffles on a daily basis. You will find automotive supplies right next to the yarn one day, and intermixed with the pet food the next. To make what would be a very user-friendly experience even better, throw in a hundred or so customers who are similarly irritated by the nail polish and the nail polish remover being in two completely different areas of the store. When you first walk in the door, the greeter who used to be a friendly, elderly gentleman named Howard has been replaced by mullet chick wearing a Dawg the Bounty Hunter T-shirt who grunts "Welcome to Walmart, hold on to your purse." I'm not sure if the remodel has included stationing purse snatchers throughout the store, or whether she's a disgruntled employee trying to warn customers that Walmart's primary goal is to rip people off. I think they should get Howard back, and when you walk in the door he could say, "Welcome to Walmart" and hand you an updated map and a Valium.

Part of the appeal to our community of having a Super Walmart is the mass of entry level, minimum wage jobs that would materialize. A friend of mine applied for a job there after high school. He didn't pass their computer pre-screening system and was never called for an interview. Instead he went on to earn 3 graduate degrees and is a well known professional in his field. He wasn't good enough to work for Walmart, but he now makes enough mint that grocery store priced paper towels don't even phase him, so he doesn't have to endure the shoddy service at Wally's. Some people do actually pass the computer screenings, take Cody for example, who passed the online personality test and landed a job working in the paint department. On Saturday, I waited in line in the paint department for 45 minutes waiting for someone to mix a custom color. No one was stationed in paint, because Cody failed to show up to work. My color was finally mixed by the associate from Automotive. Cody finally came stumbling in, (presumably once his hangover lifted) and assumed his post. His coworker made a snide remark, but the nearby manager didn't bat an eye or comment about his punctuality. After all, its difficult to find employees who can pass the tard screening and be hired. While we waited for our paint, we wandered around the store and ended up buying a lava lamp. We got it home, and it doesn't work.

Today I had to go back to return the lava lamp and to buy more paint, this time a premixed "White" latex Semi-Gloss mildew resistant paint. Our friend Cody was at work, but I knew right where to go for what I needed so I went ahead and helped myself. On the shelf in front of me was White Latex Eggshell, White Latex High Gloss, White Latex Satin, Bright White Latex Semi Gloss, Cashmere White Latex Semi-Gloss...but no regular White Latex Semi Gloss. Finally I found it, in the back corner on a high shelf, in a quart size container. The price per gallon is $19.97. (Funny, the last gallon I bought was's amazing how those prices keep rolling back.) The price per quart is 10.98. I'm sure Cody didn't realize that to buy it that way it would cost more than twice as much, he still had a good three hours before his pre-work joint wears off. The conversation went like this:

Excuse me, I need this paint in the gallon size, and there is none on the shelf.

Uhhh...I guess that means we must be out of it.

Ok...could you check and see if there would be more in the back? It's a pretty normal thing that you guys stock all the time.

We probably do have some in the back. But I can't get it for you.

Uh huh. Can someone else get it for me?

No. Its blocked off with junk from the remodel. We will put it out in a few days.

Well then, I want to buy the quart packaged paint at the gallon price.

I don't think you can do that.

In that case, I would like to talk to someone who would know if I can do that.

Um, you mean like a manager or something?

Or something...

Cody is amazingly able to work a telephone and calls requesting a manager. 45 minutes later Cody says he will be "right back" and disappears. Assistant Manager Jerry finally shows up.

Hi, I need this paint in a gallon size.

Jerry checks the shelf, and declares that they must be out of it.

OK.... Jerry having attended a 3 hour management training course realizes out that he can mix color into the Bright White base to obtain a regular white. "The formula is in this book right here." Great, lets do that then. Jerry mixes my paint for me. Just as I'm about to leave, Cody returns, appearing visibly relaxed.

Jerry: Hey Cody, has anyone shown you this book? It has formulas for any color including white.

Cody: Yeah, but I don't care about that, I like to use the computerized system.

Jerry: The computerized system is nice, except in circumstances when you need to see an actual formula in front of you.

Cody: Whatever, man.

Jerry: You are such a great employee Cody. I wish all the guys on my crew were are with it as you are. It's so hard to find good people. You wouldn't believe how many weirdos the computer screens out!

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Your Proctologist Called...

I think he found your head.

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Today I had the less than delightful experience of being a bystander of stupidity. At some point, people have to realize that walking around like that could be the reason their neck hurts.

A colleague of mine is infuriated by an email I sent him and my direct supervisor to address an issue under his control two weeks ago. I sent it to him because he is the only person who can resolve it, and to my supervisor (who is not in a supervisorial role to him) who would then know why my work performance has been inhibited. Basically the crew he supervises keeps taking over my workspace, and legal deadlines are making it imperative that I have a place to work in his building. I've seen him since then in passing and he's been perfectly friendly. The necessary changes have been made and I've finally received access to the resources and rooms I need from his department.

Today however, he seized an opportunity to corner me and attempted to rip me a new one, apparently its been stewing for awhile and rather than dealing with it like a civilized being he attempted to victimize me by bullying me into conceding his point. I conceded that he probably took my email the wrong way, in an attempt to be congruent and move forward in a professional, assertive manner. I emphasized that regardless of how he took the tone of my email, he can't deny that the problems existed and his responsibility to ensure me adequate work space. Since his goal was apparently to bully and harrass me into submission, congruence didn't appeal to him, and he set out his list of demands, which included two specific requests: one which clearly breaks federal law, and the other which sets me up for extreme personal liability.

Please note that when I say requests, they were framed as orders, and I particularly relished the fact that I'm not his direct subordinate, and I (politely) refused on both counts. I continued to be assertive, calm, and as congruent as one can be while telling another person I will not put myself and my employer in legal jeopardy for his personal convenience. What I wanted to say was that in an ideal world he would regain control of his department before it implodes. (I restrained myself on that one, but I am stocking up on popcorn to munch on while I watch the implosion.)

Then I had the pleasure of watching him implement his grand scheme of how it would all come together, his way. As long as my legal bases are covered, I'm not picky about location and I had a client waiting so I agreed to use the area he recommended. He personally escorted us there. The room was completely empty, deserted, and freezing cold. He flipped on the lightswitch and nothing happened. I stared at him expectantly, and watched his face get redder. Finally the florescent lights kicked in, and he grunted, then went off in search of a table to use for workspace. He came back in with 24 inches by 18 inches table. I looked at the table and looked at him. His face got redder, and he grunted something about possibly needing a larger table. I said, "thank you, that would be nice," in a tone as sweet as sugar. Another grunt. He came back with a table. I did not offer to help set it up, I stood and watched. Of course, he had to make another trip in and out for chairs as well.

It is probably perverse that I enjoyed this so much. I have a hunch that the table & chairs will be removed by Monday when I go back. Is it wrong that I plan to revel in popping my head into his office to let him know I need them back? The best laid plans of mice have a way of providing karmic pleasure for us bystanders.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Stuffed Shirts and Pompous Windbags

There’s a nasty-looking little Chinese restaurant in the East Village with a handwritten sign in the window—a dirty window, too—that says ‘our chef is very famous in London.’ But not in New York, or anywhere else outside of London.”

Great line, and great concept from Claire Messud's The Emperor's Children. It's one I'm coming to relate to more as the weeks go on. I've observed that certain members of human society thrive on sharing with me ad nauseum the details of their accomplishments a few years back as if its somehow relevant to me or my casual aquaintance with them. Sorry dearie, if you don't have a curriculum vitae, your experience with 1994 is probably not overly interesting or worth basking in your own reflected glory over. You could go make a CV and I'd be happier to read it since it would take less time than hearing about it from you over and over and over. Please get over yourself, or better yet go do something besides hoping we will all be impressed by your achievements that stopped rather abruptly fifteen or so years ago.

You certainly don't care to hear about what I was doing in the nineties, but I'd like to tell you if I thought it would spark you to retire to a hole somewhere and leave me out of the boring details. It's something like the way women decorate their homes with wedding pictures and dried flowers until they are mostly replaced with baby pictures, and those are eventually mostly changed out for graduation pictures and pictures of grandkids. Only your wedding flowers have shed their petals all over the floor and you have yet to vacuum them up!

While you prattle on about how wonderful you were back then, and we sit there smiling and nodding and squirming inwardly at your boasting we sometimes wonder what your reaction would be if we took the competitive bait. We weren't sitting around waiting for you to show up back then, we were busy. I know I was. One particularly event filled year for you was the year I spent taking 21 credits, working full-time and a second job to boot. I was competing for a pageant title, perfecting my interview skills, and working out for a couple of hours a day. Oh yeah, I also had a boyfriend turned murderous sadistic stalker to hide from in the midst of my highly predictable and punctual schedule. In that same sememster, I aced my instrumental performance juries, and turned out some of my best creative work to date. That was also the year I was recognized by Up With People for my extensive volunteeer work in libraries and schools. I'm sure you never heard me mention that though, I've been somewhat engaged since then with other things.

In the real world, no one really puts Eagle Scout on their resume, they've done something better by now, and it certainly isn't dinner conversation unless its with your own little Scouter. But wait...I know, your chef was famous in 1994.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Vehicles of Patriarchy

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High heels, I loathe you. Oh sure, you are pretty. You make my calves and booty look so voluptuous, yet you make my toes and arches ache and blister. Who decided that open toed sandals should be made of shiny leather which will rub, rub, rub the skin off my feet? You can't wear socks or hose with them, you can't even put on a bandaid for padding without it showing through. Who was that man, I'd like to punch him in the face. And you know it was a him. You know a woman would have considered toe friction and bunion avoidance. She also would have considered arch support and a surface to balance on wider than a pencil. She also would have considered that if your right leg is 1/32nd of an inch longer than your left, this manifests in incredible pressure on your right big-toe joint in high heels. The male designer of course, never got past the idea of calves and booties.

I can't get away with wearing my Columbia hiking shoes except on casual Fridays anymore, people are starting to talk. My flat oxfords don't cut it with summery skirts and capris, so I bought some lovely, bone colored open toed dress shoes for work. They were beautiful, feminine shoes that would have done Minnie Mouse proud. I envisioned the women at work saying "great shoes!" I thought about how I empowering it would be to be two inches taller. I put on the shoes and they felt decent at the store. When I got dressed this morning I realized that there was going to be some serious pain by the end of the day. By breaking out the bandaids I was able to spare my pinky toes. I thought the joint by my big toe would be OK, but as the day wore holes into my feet, I came to rue the day I found them on display at Shoe Pavillion.

Of course today was also one of those wild goose chase days at work. I couldn't just sit at my desk and slide the shoes off except for when I walk down the hall to the vending machines for bottled water. No, of course I had meetings outside the office. I had to walk up and down the stairs six times, carrying my 30 lb briefcase with me. Chivalry is dead, none of the office guys so much as glanced at my case let alone offered to carry it, but high heels survived the feminist movement to curse us into our graves. And of course, my meetings were no shows so I had to back and forth it up and down the stairs all day long. You can't walk quickly in them because its too painful. Walking slowly means more steps with the inane rubbing with each step. Hans Christian Anderson was prophetic of high heels when the Witch told the Little Mermaid her every step would feel like knives slicing her skin. I think she would have thought twice about becoming human had she realized it was not an exaggeration.

Some of my third-stage feminist friends claim makeup is a vehicle of patriarchy, a snare set by men to keep us subservient and superficial. No, I love Estee Lauder and Mary Kay. They have never prematurely aged me. They have protected me from melanoma and give me some color on days when I feel like the walking dead after a long night with a sick toddler. They let me experiment with a new look for a $14.95 tube of lipstick instead of $90 cut and highlights and they are completely reversible. Men of the metrosexual persuasion are even catching on to the benefits of tea-tree oil and concealer for the occasional unsightly blemish.

High heels however, have given me nothing back. They have sent me to the choiropractors office for an adjustment and a $120/hour sacro-cranial massage to relieve the headaches that travelled up my sciatic nerve to my skull. They slow me down to the pace of a tortoise forcing me to do my work twice as fast to make up the time. And when I walk in the door and I see my husbands eye travel up me from ankle to shoulder I kick the infernal things off in disgust. Not on your life after the day I've had with these blasted shoes. Please pass the ibuprofen, and honey, next time you catch me glance at the spring shoe display at Macy's please steer me toward Sephora instead. You'll thank me later, I promise.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

I Vote for Plan B

Scientists at Johns-Hopkins University have developed a genetically modified mosquito that is better able to survive than mosquitoes in the wild. The plan is to release the mutant mosquitoes who are hardier and through natural selection, they will eventually take over and other mosquitoes will die out. They believe this is a good idea, because the genetically modified mosquitoes are immune to malaria.

I'll tell you the problem with the scientific power that you're using here: it didn't require any discipline to attain it. You read what others had done and you took the next step. You didn't earn the knowledge for yourselves, so you don't take any responsibility for it.
-Dr. Ian Malcolm, Jurassic Park

While 300 million people contract malaria each year, and 1 million die from it, this could potentially avert the malaria problem. Except that the malaria the genetically superior mosquitoes do not spread is a form that makes mice sick, but not people.

Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should.
-Dr. Ian Malcolm Jurassic Park.

Does anyone really think its a fabulous idea to release genetically mutated super-bugs into the environment? I don't know of anyone who personally enjoys being bitten by mosquitoes, having mosquito bites, or being infected with encephalitis or West Nile virus. Malaria is one of our concerns, but malaria in people, not in rats!

It's almost as if they think that having more mosquitoes will make things better. I've never had mosquitoes take all my blood before, I suspect the population of Africa (where Malaria is most rampant) could supply more blood to the mosquito population than they are currently. So is the idea that with only half the mosquitoes now spreading disease, we will feel better about that-and somehow not notice we are getting twice as many mosquito bites? (I don't think that reduces the odds of contracting Malaria much.)

What is so great about discovery? It is a violent, penetrative act that scars what it explores. What you call discovery, I call the rape of the natural world.
-Dr. Ian Malcolm, Jurassic Park

Um-kay, maybe rape is a little extreme, but there has to be a better solution than the introduction of genetically engineered micro-vampires into the food chain. It's only a matter of time before the little devils mutate to become invincible, organize and take over the world-right after we all die of some undiscovered prion that the genetically modified mosquitoes do carry, but the scientists did not notice when they concocted their little scheme.

Enter Plan B: Scientists at Hebrew University have annihilated their mosquito population by spraying a sugar based pesticide on acacia trees. Female mosquitoes need blood to reproduce, but they need sugar for energy. Mosquitoes are picky about what they eat, so its been discovered that we can selectively spray only the flowers and plants they find attractive-not the ones that are part of our food supply.

Call me crazy, but the idea of a mosquito-less world is very appealing to me. No more choosing between wearing eau deu Deep Woods and dying of West Nile more paying $150 every three months on Canine Advantix for my dogs.

I don't think the John's Hopkins research has gone to waste, maybe they could generalize their research to creating genetically modified honeybees that have no stingers, but who also create more honey. Its a win-win situation for Winnie the Pooh, and for those of us who have to carry an Epi-Pen in the spring and summer.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Continuing on a Theme

Hollywood is a place where they'll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss and fifty cents for your soul.

~Marilyn Monroe

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Social Prostitution

Social Prostitution is the name I've coined for the sociological phenomena in which people sell themselves by doing whatever they are encouraged in exchange for money, fame, or attention. The most obvious culprits are professional athletes and celebrities but chances are there are some relatively well-evolved social prostitutes right in your own neighborhood-think office politics, the parents who promote their child's disability for sympathy and respect, and the gal down the street who is happy to help in an emergency--as long as everyone in town knows about it and praises her for it.

Celebrities don't just act dysfunctional, we actually encourage them to be dysfunctional and we reward them duly. The most obvious and tragic recent media example is Anna Nicole Smith, whom we have rewarded handsomely for the entertainment her life has become.

She is reinforced not for fulfilling societies values, or encouraging us to better ourselves, but for being a prime entertainment source. In the end, she lost everything, her volition was lost to drugs and addictions, the life of her son, and eventually her own life as well. Her family and friends mourn while the media and legal system debate over her estate and the parentage of her daughter. We as a society are the ones who continue to be entertained by her personal tragedy; the fame and money we award her certainly leave her empty and used, even in death.

What will bother people about this viewpoint is the idea that as a society we encourage people to create and then publicize their dysfunction. The fact is, we do, and what does that say about us? We put a premium on dysfunction and there are plenty of people willing to step up to the plate. How much of Anna Nicole's life outcome was chosen and how much did we create for her? For a person who doesn't sing, dance, act, or compete in sports, there is a premium on popularity. If your name isn't being googled and you aren't in the tabloids you may fail to exist. Without your fame, you may lose your money, and you will lose your prestige and your stream of attractive and possibly powerful suitors. Keep yourself attractive to the media and you will be compensated for as long as people enjoy watching you. The game becomes a question of how to keep the attention on yourself. Certainly the tabloids won't go away when they serve such a vital purpose to those they exploit; tabloids may very well be resented by celebrities for the fact that what they expose is the social prostitution itself.

When society pays your paycheck, and there is a premium on deviance you have choices-you can step up to the plate, you can get a new job, or you can just wait and see which auditions come your way when you aren't in the top 20 internet searches. Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, and Kobe Bryant all caught on very quickly and jumped on board.

We reward celebrities and athletes who lie, steal, molest children, rape, and even murder with more attention and legal excuses instead of consequences. We even compensate those who lose or gain a few pounds. We punish those who refuse to play by concocting false accusations and suspicions-"she's not above the game, she's actually a closet lesbian, her marriage is in trouble and she's addicted to painkillers..."

Being an entertainer is more than a job, its a life and even when you aren't on the court or the silver screen you will entertain us. Don't worry, you will be rewarded for your hollow and coarse life with a seat on the A-list and better chances for the next multi-million dollar contract.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Wicked is as Wicked Does

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West
Author: Gregory Maguire
Reviewed by Florinn Johannsen

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Originally published in 1995 by HarperCollins, Maguire's Wicked is experiencing a reawakening following its modification and release for theatre in 2003. The benefit of being late to review this novel is that outside of the initial hype, one is able to create a less-influenced opinion of Maguire's work. It also creates a spectrum for level of agreement with the prevailing themes in other interpretations of the book. The most common is whether Maguire was able to adequately resolve his premise: evil defined.

The book is a view into the inner sociological and political atmosphere of Oz under the Wizard's rule. Portrayed as a place of civil unrest and political manuevers ranging from the Powerful's manipulation of traditional rituals to outright Fascism and oppression of societal groups. The characters are archtypal and static. Frex, a clergyman desperately fighting an influx of neopaganism is reminiscient of Kingsolver's Nathan Price in both his zeal and his cluelessness. Melena is a superficial and immature woman whose marriage to Frex was an ill conceived attempt at rebellion. An heiress to the title Eminent Thropp, her choice to marry down has rendered her a lonely hermit in a village that enjoys her only in gossiping about her. Their first child, Elphaba, destined to later become the Wicked Witch of the West was conceived, born, and baptized under dubious circumstances and her life continues to be a struggle. She is not only awkward, ugly, and possesses an uncannily sharp set of teeth, but her skin is also a bright shade of green. Her personality is dark and introverted even as a child, (her first word was "horrors!") and she is deathly allergic to water. Melena and Frex don't care for her and have as little to do with her as possible. Any attention Elphaba does receive from Melena is limited to emotional abuse and blame for her mother's failings. The small measure of affection she does receive is from her abrasive nursemaid Nanny and a transient named Turtle Heart who moves in and ensues separate romantic relationships with both Melena and Frex.

Galinda, later known as Glinda the Witch of the North is placed as Elphaba's roommate at college and there is a clear archtypical difference between the two. Elphaba is dark, serious, and studious. Glinda is preoccupied with clothing, her social standing, and attractive men. Elphaba's sister Nessarose, (or half sister as the case may be,) is witty but handicapped. Her physical inadequacies contribute to an overdeveloped sense of self and a warped morality. She is given the infamous ruby slippers as a gift from Frex and Elphaba's hurt at being overlooked again is intense. Nessarose's shoes become a symbol of her control and oppression of the Munchkinlander people she rules over as the succeeding Emminent Thropp.

Infuriated by the injustices around her, and irritated by naivete of the general citizenship of Oz, Elphaba disappears to sympathize with an activist group and eventually becomes part of a cell that employs violent means targeted at political revision. The oppression and atrocities she has aligned herself against are backed by the Wizard and the resistance is terminated by Gestapo-like military force. Elphaba's character has a gradiose social empathy that doesn't quite compensate for her deficits in interpersonal expression. Her relationships are strained or even ignored in favor of animals and her political quest to right injustice.

An old schoolmate and handsome Vinkan prince named Fiyero becomes Elphaba's lover. His purpose in the book appears to serve as a window to the soft part of Elphaba's heart, the man who is able to see her not as a terrorist but as a person with a sense of justice and humanity that is warped only by the society she is surrounded with.

Finally, a travelling pagan Dwarf and an old woman called Yackle appear in various scenes of the book, acting as an oracle and typically presenting their predictions and advice through charged and deviant sexual symbols. A frequent source of negative reviews of Wicked is the extreme use of sexual metaphors, some even claiming Maguires use of kinky sex was a ploy to sell a book and its premise through eroticism. This being the case to me seems unlikely, the sexual content serves as a wake up call to the characters and the readers given that that Fiyero's illicit affair with Elphaba while his wife and harem sit at home in the country is hardly shocking in light of our sexually charged society. Perhaps Maguire felt the other scenes were a necessary albeit extreme way to get his point across. An interesting contrast to the charged sexual content of the book is the fact that Maguire's main character refuses to acknowledge her own sexuality fully, never expressing complete confidence or comfort with her lover, never acknowledging her pregnancy or son's birth--coincidentally the same aspects our society refuses to acknowledge as sexual.

Whether or not Maguire is able to adequately define what evil is, he certainly achieves defining what it isn't, which in the case of the book isn't Elphaba, the Wizard, or even Dorothy who ultimately is Elphaba's demise. Elphaba's personal quest in the second half of the book is one searching for forgiveness. The Wizard's self loathing is his motivation to oppress others and his downfall. Dorothy is from start to finish self centered, unaffected, and refuses to participate with or develop unkindness in her own character. What is most remarkable is that none of the characters in the story experience development in their personality toward change, rather their original characteristics are honed by their circumstances. Elphaba becomes more misunderstood, darker, and depressed as the story goes on. Glinda becomes more oblivious and superficial, Fiyero becomes more appealing and understanding, and even Yackle becomes more mysterious and unreachable, and simultaneously more influential.

Underneath the shroud of guilt, struggle, and depression Elphaba lived her life with, the underlying question for her is whether she is a volitive being in her own life, or whether she is controlled by unseen forces: Madame Morrible her school marm, the Wizard, or the mysterious Yackle who tends to be present at the key moments in her life. Her insistence on independence and stubborn refusal to change her purpose or methods (she appears to be the only character in the book with a psychological awareness that includes metacognition) often seem to be the one thing that is holding her back, ultimately she is her own oppressive force.

Although the plot of Wicked is weak, (which may be a given as we already knew the ending) the character study and interaction were the most clearly defined subjects and the overriding theme was a question not about evil, but about locus of control. The repetitive questions about the definition of evil fueled this theme and propelled the story forward. Sociological structures and political statements become a means of describing the premise rather than premises in and of themselves. Maguire's ability to flip character expectations succeeds in making a Wicked Witch endearing.